Musings

The Discipline Of Gratitude

11/23/2010

 

 

Why does the Torah suddenly tell us of the death of Deborah, Rebecca’s childhood nurse (Genesis 35:8)? Deborah dies in the course of journeying with Jacob and Rebecca, and the family buries her at Beth El. We are told absolutely nothing else of her in the Torah. So perhaps the account of Deborah’s death is intended to teach us about Rebecca.

The Discipline Of Quiet

11/16/2010

Last week I sat in three airports and could not escape the tinny, insistent sound of the television. It reminded me of one researcher who claimed that we are always dreaming, but because of the stimulus of the day, dreams can only peak through at night. The noise of the world shuts out our dreams.

Perfectly Imperfect

11/09/2010

There are no perfect people in the Torah. No one above criticism or free from sin. To read the story of Abraham, Moses, Miriam or David is to recognize that no biblical hero is ideal.

The Eternal ‘I’

11/02/2010

Science favors the collective, the species. We are analyzed by groups, the behavior of crowds, evolutionary patterns, economic cycles. Swept up in the net of the social and natural sciences, the “I” seems to disappear.
Here the American and Jewish traditions join hands. A human being is a singular creation in the Bible. The first thing we are told about creation is that each person is in the image of God. When the great American poet Walt Whitman writes that he celebrates himself and sings himself, the accent is not only of the new world, but the biblical heritage.

Under The Knife

10/26/2010

A few weeks ago I had brain surgery to repair a breach that opened from brain surgery seven years ago. The experience gave me an insight into the story of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac (Gen. Ch. 22).

Commentators ask God how could have instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son, or why Abraham acquiesced. More rarely do we wonder about Isaac. Most assume that when Isaac survives he is traumatized and damaged. Some note that he and Abraham never speak again after this experience. How could he undergo such an ordeal and not be devastated?

Cloud Cover

10/19/2010

The Talmudic sages enumerate three great miracles in the desert. First was the manna, which fed the wandering Israelites. Miriam’s well provided water. And there was the covering of clouds that offered shade. One interpretation of the sukkah is that it commemorates the cloud covering in the desert.

The Steipler Gaon asks an intriguing question and gives a beautiful answer. Why of all three miracles does only the cloud covering deserve a holiday? There is no festival of the manna or the water, only Sukkot remembering the clouds.

Comic Relief

10/12/2010

 

 

Is there another religious tradition with a major character named “laughter?” Yitzchak means “laughter” and alone among the patriarchs, his name is not changed — because God names him.

When God is bested in an argument in the Talmud, Elijah reports that God’s reaction was to laugh. In addition to lamenting the difficulties of the world, Jews have long learned that now and then you’ve just got to laugh.

Watching A Mother Slip Away

10/12/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

‘I’m getting older every day,” the octogenarian repeats. Once valedictorian of her high-school graduating class, she now hugs a toy bunny to her chest. “What should I do next?” she asks, as if she’s at an amusement park instead of at a Jewish nursing home in New Jersey.

The geriatric assistant sums up my mom’s condition in one word: “confused.” Yesterday my 86-year-old parent believed she was in an airport; today, she may be Alice in Wonderland, bewitched by a rabbit.

Kindling Young Minds

10/05/2010

Got a Kindle, a Nook, an iPad? Will the new technology ruin reading, or concentration, or devastate literacy and turn the young into illiterates? The argument is not new. 

Contradictory Impulses

09/29/2010

 Ecclesiastes is full of contradictions. Better the day of death than the day of birth we are told; but then we are reminded that a live dog is better than a dead lion. Everything is futile, we are told; but then we’re urged to obey the commandments — or to enjoy life with the one we love. Ecclesiastes teaches a great life lesson: No single value, idea or practice can be right for all people at all times.

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